March of the Vita – PSV Could Have Best Month Since Launch in Japan

While the time of this posting is earlier in the West, it’s now February 28th in Japan, meaning right now officially begins what should be one of the PS Vita’s best sales months in Japan, dating all the way back to its launch in December of 2011. First and perhaps the biggest factor in the expected sales boost, the system is seeing a big price drop from 30,000 yen (3G enabled) and 25,000 yen (Wi-Fi only) to 20,000 yen for either hardware model. Additionally, the 32 GB memory cards are seeing a sort-of one-time reduction for new buyers, if they buy with the right bundle. You see, they sell for anywhere from 8,000 yen to 10,000 yen, depending on the retailer, but a purchase of the “Bonus Pack” will net you one of these cards with your Vita system for only 25,000 yen, effectively slashing 4,000 yen (over $40) off the price of a 32 GB card. Since the system also contains a stand and screen protector, which sell for 500 or 600 yen on their own, that pack is a heck of a deal.

But what’s hardware without software? Right off the bat, the Vita has a ton of dirt-cheap games to offer new owners; you can find games like Hot Shots Golf, Katamari, Shinobido 2, and Gravity Daze (Rush) for as low as $10 here. Two big games are releasing today that will undoubtedly serve to make a Vita purchase more appealing: Phantasy Star Online 2 and Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus. Both installments of Phantsy Star Portable were smash hits on the PSP, and no joke, I was sitting near a group of four 20-something dudes who were playing some rad Phantasy Star on their PSPs just earlier this month. Guys like these now have something to lure them towards a Vita; not taking anything away from Ragnarok Odyssey, but humans tend to find things they feel at home with. This game will push some systems, even if its software sales aren’t sky high (it’s available to purchase at retail or download for free). Shinovi Versus adds appeal for those who like their action games to have a little bit of bounce in them. It’s not the type of thing that would sell a lot in North America (where it will never be localized), but it’ll probably perform decently here in Japan.

Only a week from today, March 7th, another hardware bundle will come out, coupled with one of the most highly anticipated Vita games of the year, Soul Sacrifice. This game’s hardware bundle sells for only 25,000 yen while packing in includes a limited edition red Vita system, several matching accessories, and a 4GB memory card. On that same day, RPG fans get Tales of Hearts-R, a complete overhaul the successful and well-liked Tales of Hearts from the Nintendo DS. It’d be nice to see more original series entries coming out, but hey, the comeback has to start somewhere, right?

Later in March, the sentence structure-murdering Steins;Gate (that’s not a typo) gives adventure fans something to look forward to, while Dead or Alive 5 Plus serves both the booby lovin’ crowd and the fighting game crowd. On the 20th, One Piece finally appears on the system with One Piece Kaizoku Musou 2 and Atelier Meruru will also come to Sony’s handheld. The month closes out with the latest edition of Pro Baseball Spirits and a port of Wii cult classic Muramasa, to boot.

Practically all of those games in the above paragraph are either multiplatform releases or ports, so their success on Vita is far from guaranteed, but the point of this is that the software is finally flowing at a pace that keeps up with the other systems. To this point, it was not uncommon for the Vita to go two or three weeks with no new games, while all of the other systems were getting new titles weekly (the norm in Japan). Its holiday season was embarrassing, and its hardware sales were even lower than the ill-fated Dreamcast’s final holiday. Concern for the machine to this point has not been unwarranted, and Vita is by no means out of the woods yet. The good news is, however, that Vita’s short-term future in its homeland is looking promising. If things go well, perhaps Sony could see fit to bring the Vita price drop outside of Japan? We’ll see.

For more Japanese news and musings, watch for PlayStation LifeStyle’s monthly look at gaming across the seas in PlayStation JapanStyle.